100 people were arrested for questioning the Uttarakhand Chief Minister and demanding democratic control over resources and halt to illegal practices that led to disaster. The arrest follows three day Hunger Strike demanding democratic control over resources and halt to illegal practices that led to disaster.

From November 7th, Chetna Andolan and Uttarakhand Mahila Manch have been holding a mass protest dharna in Dehradun that has included some of Uttarakhand’s most well known intellectuals, social activists and leaders of the Uttarakhand movement. Thirteen senior leaders have been on hunger strike since the morning of the 7th. The demandwas an end to the criminal and illegal manner in which the Uttarakhand government has been selling off the resources of the state, leading to the disaster of this summer and then subsequently has been siphoning off the funds meant for the tens of thousands of victims of the disaster.

Today, on Uttarakhand’s founding day, the protesters peacefully sought to present a memorandum to Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna when he came to the Martyrs’ Memorial (Shahid Smarak) in the name of "celebrating" the martyrs of the Uttarakhand movement. But when some of the seniormost leaders of the Uttarakhand movement — such as Dr Shamsher Singh Bisht and Rajiv Lochan Sah – themselves requested that the CM receive their memorandum before entering the memorial, the police forcibly arrested them and all the other protesters, took them to other corners of the city, and only released them in the late afternoon. The CM never received their memorandum. The leaders then called off their hunger strike. In the face of such an inhumanly callous and criminal government, they resolved to take out a protest yatra through out the state in the second half of December.

The key demands of the protesters were:

The relief funds should be given to the panchayats for planning and spending in a transparent and democratic way. Currently the control lies entirely with the bureaucracy.
The government is required by law to respect the powers of Gram Sabhas and local bodies under the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution and the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Projects cannot be built in forest areas without the consent of the affected gram sabhas. The gram sabhas also have the power to protect and manage forests and to determine people’s rights over them. But these laws are being consistently and consciously violated by the State government.

The State government should issue a clarification and a direction to all of its officers that the traditional hill dwelling communities who depend on the forests for their livelihood are eligible for rights under the Forest Rights Act. This is required to halt the use of the fig leaf of eligibility that officials are using to violate rights. The Act should be implemented fully and all Gram Sabhas in the hill areas should be given title to use and manage their community forest resources as required by law.

The government should recognise and respect the powers given to the panchayats in the 73rd Amendment. For this purpose the government should convene a committee to frame amendments to the Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act; representatives of people’s struggles should be included in this committee.

All the projects in the State that have received forest clearance after January 1, 2008 are illegal, as they were given clearance in violation of the Forest Rights Act. Their clearances should be immediately cancelled and action taken against the officers responsible.

The State government should immediately direct the Forest Department to respect the powers of Gram Sabhas to protect and manage forests under section 5 of the Forest Rights Act. No damage can be done to trees or forests without Gram Sabha permission.

Those arrested today included:

Dr Shamsher Singh Bisht (Chair, Uttarakhand Lok Vahini)
Rajiv Lochan Sah (Editor, Nainital Samachar)
Nirmala Bisht (Uttarakhand Mahila Manch) along with over 40 women of the Manch, .
representing different regions of Uttarakhand
Trepan Singh Chauhan (Chetna Andolan and well known writer) and Shankar
Gopalakrishnan (Chetna Andolan / CSD
Ghum Singh Negi (Sarvodaya leader)
Samir Rathore and Deep Pathak (Himalaya Bachao Andolan)
Manoj Tyagi (Azaadi Bachao Andolan)
Mohan Singh
Vasant Khanni

Those on hunger strike included:

Dr Uma Bhatt
Rajiv Lochan Sah (Editor, Nainital Samachar)
Padma Gupta (Uttarakhand Mahila Manch)
Bhuvaneshwari Kaithak (Uttarakhand Mahila Manch)
Bimla Unniyal (Uttarakhand Mahila Manch)
Manoj Tyagi (Azaadi Bachao Andolan)
Vasant Khanni

Source: Radiance Media Group

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